Akshara Menon: Small but proud

Good afternoon,

We are here today to celebrate the graduation of the Yale School of Public Health’s Class of 2009 – perhaps one of the smallest classes in terms of actual number of students, but a class of great spirit…and in the words of noted anthropologist Margaret Mead- “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Public health school has taught us many things. Our class has been trained in numbers with Biostatistics and many letters of public health – EHS, EMD, SBS, HPM, HPA, CDE, FGHIJKLMNOP….well-trained…
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But, I am often asked – what is public health? Well, public health can be defined as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals.” This is one of the earliest definitions of public health by Charles Edward Winslow, founder of our school of public health, better known to us students for Winslow Auditorium, our class home of freezing temperatures for most of our first year of education where we learned about P hat and the infamous John Snow.

This past two years has in some ways flown by, and we have learned a lot from our esteemed professors in the classroom setting, and have been given the gift of a skill-set that can help us be the change that we wish to see in our local, national and global communities.

But, these two years have meant so much more. Going beyond the classroom, textbooks and readings, as a class we have shared so many memories together— from the many formals we have attended, including the medical school formals where public health took over the dance floor, our group struggles in 47 College trying to understand and decode SAS, the creation of the John Snow Society, to our relentless Outbreak softball team…we have been more than just a class. We have become family, a family that I know will continue past this graduation ceremony.

The time has come for us to embark on our next adventure…at this time, it is important for us to remember that while schooling may be over (for most of us, or for now), our education still continues…in the words of Tom Brokaw, we must think of our degree as a ticket to change the world. We must remember the inspiring words of Dr.Dubrow in our first year, to above all remember to fix the potholes in the sidewalks. No matter what paths we choose to take, we must never forget to have heart and show compassion for all.

As Dr. James Orbinski says, “We are responsible for our lives and for our world. And if we don’t engage that responsibility, no one else will and we will live or die with a legacy of our failures.”

My fellow classmates and dear friends, as the saying goes –

I hope your dreams take you to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities, and to the most special places your heart has ever known.

Thank you for making my public health school experience a truly memorable time. Good luck and Congratulations!

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